Over 600 acres of land in Costa Rica, a vast rainforest area is home to a unique blend of wildlife, flora and fauna, and humans looking to reduce the adverse impact their existence poses to the environment. These humans occupy man-made tree houses that dot the vast expanse of the forest where they zipline or cross aerial walkways to move from one place to another, generate all energy on solar power, and grow their food.
In the treehouse community of Finca Bellavista exists a perfect amalgamation of luxury and sustainability. Founded by couple Erica Andrews and Mateo Hogan in 2006, the pedestrian neighbourhood is also home to over 800 species of birds. Guests can also make their acquaintance with tamanduas, different types of monkeys and frogs, tayras, basilisks, peccaries, coatis and more.
It all began when Erica and Mateo came across 62 acres of rainforest land that was set to be given up for timber harvesting. It was Erica who brought up the idea of creating a ‘treehouse village’, something that emulated the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi. As the duo began reaching out to their friends to gather support, Mateo took charge of the legalities and logistics, and the result was a rustic abode that promoted the coexistence of humans and nature.
“It was bigger than what we were intending to purchase initially. And one night I just thought, well there are some cool trees on that property. What if we built treehouses?” Erica told Business Insider.
“The land felt sacred from the get-go, and we felt like this would be a travesty to let this be deforested,” she added.
The treehouses are available for both temporary vacationers as well as permanent residents, and those willing can build their own. However, no trees are allowed to be cleared for this, and instead, homes are shaped around existing ones, while incorporating their ever-changing growth. Each home has indoor plumbing, electricity, and a functioning kitchen.
A community base camp serves as a common point for residents and has a WiFi zone, a parking area, a reception, electronic bike tours, zipline tours, yoga lessons, and a dining hall. The community centre encourages social interaction where people drop by for happy hours, play games, or just unwind. To avoid posing roadblocks in the natural migratory paths of the wildlife, all the treehouses are elevated. The team has installed ziplines to commute from one tree house to another.
In their ‘Garden of Eden’, the community grows abundant flowers, fruits and vegetables, aiming to make fresh produce available throughout the year. As guests come and go, the kinds of food grown here change as well. Plumbing is provided through gravity-fed water systems and collected spring water, and energy is produced with help from bio-generators that process food waste. The latter, the founders say, is imperative for any guests who plan to permanently reside in the community.
“It’s a rainforest and a dynamic environment,” Hogan told Insider. “When you get up there and there’s a branch going through your living room, you can’t just chop off a limb. You have to work around those situations and be willing to accept changes in the design.”
As per their website, “Finca Bellavista is situated in the mountainous south Pacific coastal region of Costa Rica, called the Southern Zone. Markedly rustic and rural, this area is renowned as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. At an elevation of 650 to 1,400 feet, the Finca lies in the middle of a critical biological migration corridor called the Amistad de Paso corridor (nicknamed AMISTOSA).”
All structures at Finca Bellavista are either stilt-built or arboreal. This is to allow for terrestrial migrations in a critical wildlife corridor. Clearing trees to make tree houses is strictly prohibited, and all energy sources must be pre-approved. Commuting is only permissible through non-motorised methods.
Contrary to what one might think, this isn’t just an ideal residence for backpackers and adventure seekers. A large number of Finca’s visitors and occupants are retired folks and nuclear families. Corrine, one of the guests at the property, told Insider that her 70-year-old father loves living in their treehouse, and often kicks back on their porch to relax. “I guess treehouses are for all ages,” she said. “Dad even goes zip-lining around the property.”
The closest town to Finca Bellavista is about 1.5 miles away and is a remote one with limited tourist attendance. This ties in with the general philosophy of the community to live ‘simple’ lives, without noisy bars, souvenir shops, and the like. Hogan said, “In general, people who live here want a simpler lifestyle, a life less ordinary. They’re usually very green, environmentally conscious, and want to live off the grid.”
Edited by Yoshita Rao